With 17-plus years of experience in the hospitality industry, Minar Aliyar started his career from scratch way back in 2002 as an intern with the pre-opening JW Marriott, Mumbai, India. Today, Aliyar is the Executive Housekeeper of Elite Byblos Hotel (previously known as Coral Dubai Al Barsha), which is a 337-key, 5-star leisure hotel in the heart of Al Barsha district in Dubai, where he leads a team of 40 diverse housekeeping and laundry professionals. Apart from this, Aliyar has, in the past, worked with several international brands like Intercontinental, Radisson and Rotana located at various GCC countries including Kuwait, Qatar and, since the last decade, he is working in the UAE. Aliyar talks about his professional journey and more with Clean Middle East.
After high school, I was passionate to pursue something different. I was initially interested in pursuing interior designing but, then a friend told me that the course material in hospitality education also includes interior designing, and it was an exciting industry resulting in a rewarding career, especially at that time. I followed his advice and underwent a graduation course in hospitality management and indeed it has been rewarding since then. Reward does not necessarily signify monetary gains but is also self-satisfaction that comes about when you achieve what you really desire. Housekeeping is an extremely fulfilling, yet challenging career path. With new innovations constantly being introduced, it is essential that housekeepers remain updated and incorporate the best practices in their departments. My growth in the industry has been a result of flexibility, the ability to understand and deliver the demands of the customers, ability to maintain positive reviews and always keep myself updated with new trends, techniques and procedures that have helped me perform successfully.
Drive and passion
Being in the international hospitality industry and especially in housekeeping, which is considered to be one of the largest departments in any hotel, has its own set of challenges but that is also what drives me. I strive to overcome these challenges everyday by implementing new innovative ideas, learning new things; “every day is a new experience” is what I would say. The most complex tasks can be easily solved with proper planning and execution. Working with different brands in different countries has also given me the opportunity to work with different nationalities. I am a people’s person who works very closely with my team members ensuring that they really do have fun at work. I try to create an atmosphere wherein my staff is always motivated to work, and at the end of the day they have a feeling of self-satisfaction and achievement. This becomes routine for them to give in their best performance. Their smile makes my day!
I’ve become a master in planned task execution for rebranding and refurbishing of existing properties. For instance, I was involved in the conversion of Fraser Suites Dubai’s 180 keys deluxe serviced apartments to a 216 keys hotel and apartment; more recently, I was involved in the brand change of Coral Dubai Al Barsha to Elite Byblos Hotel. I have also been successful in pre-opening projects such as the 471 keys Nassima Royal (it was called JAL hotel Tower back in 2010), which is now rebranded as Voco. I have also carried out the successful pre-opening of the 216 keys Courtyard By Marriott, Al Barsha, Dubai. In refurbishment projects, proper planning and action are most essential because in operational properties, guest services and quality standards may not at all be compromised irrespective of the maintenance and rebranding work being carried out.
Sustainability is important for the maintenance and preservation of the environment. In order to have healthy communities, we need clean air, natural resources and a non-toxic environment. Hotels in general must look at the tons of waste that is being generated. The important question is how many tonnes are recyclable and how much goes into landfills. Housekeeping and stewarding must work very closely with each other to monitor this activity. Segregation of paper and plastics can be done on the guest floor service areas itself by training the staff to put them into separate bins or bags. It is also essential executive housekeepers choose guest amenities and products that are biodegradable wisely. Everyone must promote a culture wherein plastic waste is minimised thus saving our beautiful planet from plastic pollution.
Current cleaning practices
Maintaining 5-star standards in a busy 337 keys hotel with an Atrium lobby, pools, roof top bar, several restaurants, Spa and recreation is not an easy task and requires a lot of proper planning and execution. We have scheduled detailed cleaning of all public areas in the night, and regular maintenance is done during the day. Likewise, marble polishing is scheduled during the night while carpet and soft surfaces are cleaned during the day. We clean the roof, top glasses and the atrium every quarter, while façade cleaning is outsourced and done half yearly depending on the weather conditions. We also distribute the cleaning of the guest rooms equally amongst the housekeeping staff members based on the occupancy while we schedule guestroom deep cleaning on a weekly and monthly basis. Besides, the detailed washing of basements and stairways is done on a monthly basis as is pest control of all public areas, while guest rooms are treated on a quarterly schedule.
In one of my pre-opening properties I had introduced the HYLA GST vacuum - a wonderful German technology, which uses a water filtration system to clean soft surfaces like carpets, upholstery and mattresses, through disinfecting and deep cleaning. Besides, it also purifies the air in the room or area while you clean. At Elite Byblos Hotel we have decorative walls in our recreational areas and fire exit stairways wherein regular dusting was not a good idea, hence we decided to introduce Backpack vacuums, which provide excellent results. We are also in the process of introducing a carpet and upholstery machine from Lever Electric. This is a two-in-one machine with an easy to handle attached hose. Along with excellent results, this saves a lot of storage space in comparison to traditional machines. We also have a beautiful atrium lobby at Elite Byblos, which is well maintained by our internal staff using the cradle system and telescopic poles for hard-to-reach areas.
I’m currently conducting a case study on introducing hand-held systems for supervisors, which is integrated with the Property Management System (PMS). Introducing this technology will completely eliminate the printing of several documents, thus saving paper. On the other hand, it will be easier for them to directly change the status of the rooms from the floor itself. They can also click pictures and report maintenance as and when required. These systems are cloud-based, meaning all details can be stored very easily, hence saving a lot on space, which is usually allocated for storing old archived documents. In one of my previous properties, I had suggested the option of reporting all maintenance-related faults through the Opera PMS system instead of the traditional way of reporting maintenances through a triplicate form. And, it worked successfully, thus saving on a lot of time and paper work.
Training is an essential part of employees’ growth and development, and we all learn new techniques and procedures every day. For my staff of 40, the training requirements are also incorporated into their key responsible areas, which is evaluated on their assessments every six months. I make it a point to ask my staff what subjects they are interested in as part of constructing the annual training plan. The annual training plan consists of new and revised subjects and is also amended depending on the productivity of the new and existing staff members who may require to be taken out of the operations especially to be trained on a specific task that is not being done as per the expected standards. Based on the annual training plan, each staff member in the department is expected to undergo training of a minimum six hours per month. The plan and reports of all training are shared with the learning and development department. On-job training is conducted throughout the week for at least 15 minutes per day per shift, while full-day trainings are conducted by the learning and development executives or certified departmental trainers on a periodical basis. Training is also conducted for proper handling of machines while revision on chemical handling is also done by the approved chemicals supplier.
There are many challenges that a housekeeper faces in the daily operation whether it is pertaining to resources, manpower or the entire system in question, but it is these challenges that make the job role more exciting. Two of the main challenges I have faced are quite contrasting. 1. In a dry country like Kuwait, where the hotel guest room amenities are subjected to strict regulations by the port authorities and law, to check the alcohol content through lab tests on every consignment, which can be time consuming, the service standards and operations are drastically affected if not properly planned.
The role of the executive housekeeper is to properly forecast consumption based on the occupancy and properly balance the supply and demand... Another challenge that an executive housekeeper faces which I’m sure my housekeeping colleagues would agree to is the basic items in the guest rooms such as face cloth, wooden hangers, bathrobes, which are carried away by guests. It is extremely embarrassing to actually ask a guest to return an item on check out, which he/she thinks is his/her right as a souvenir. But it is also up to the management whether it is actually worth ruining the guest experience by asking for the items or creating a budget with a certain amount allocated just for pilferage.
Sometimes it is quite challenging for housekeepers to convince the finance personnel, general managers or owners to adopt the latter strategy, since they are keen for the return on investment or break even.
The housekeeping department of a hotel is now very different to what it was two decades ago, and it is constantly evolving. Housekeeping is mostly now seen as a department that can be partially or completely outsourced to cleaning companies who work on the system of either manned hours or per room/per area cleaning basis. It is up to the owners and higher management to decide if the reputation of a property needs to be maintained in-house or outsourced by just having a representative (in most cases the Executive Housekeeper) from the property.
Also, we are all progressing into a world wherein robots and artificial intelligence would eventually play very essential roles across all the industries. The hospitality industry will also soon involve all these new smart systems, which will aide in cost-saving measures and more efficiency pertaining to productivity. The laundry machines used for house linen are so advanced and developed that they require less manpower for pressing and folding procedures. Besides, the traditional calendar machines are also now equipped with automatic folding provisions. Trolleys and caddies are eliminated and all linen is now processed through bags moving on conveyor belts.
Housekeeping, too, has recently seen the introduction of sensor-equipped robots that clean the public areas and corridors partially taking the load of tasks done by the attendant. Special brackets are introduced into the bed bases that help in stripping linen and ease the process of bed making. However the one factor that differentiates the hospitality industry from any commercial organisation is the ‘Human Touch’; care and attention provided by an individual in serving a customer may never be obtained by an equipment or robot.